We are now 53 games into the regular season. That leaves just 29 games to go, by my math. At this point, the players on the ice are who they are, and it is time to address some concerns. Call us cynical, but when you are the key piece in a trade that sees Brent Burns go the other way, there has to be some expectations put on your shoulders.
Devin Setoguchi is on pace to have the worst full season of his career. A former 65 point, 30 goal scorer, Setoguchi has never approached those numbers since. Whether he can ever put them up again has yet to be seen, but it certainly will not be this season. At the current pace, he will score just 15 goals, and add twelve assists. Both would be career lows.
To be fair, he missed 13 games due to injury or healthy scratch, but he missed 12 games in 2009-10, and 10 last year and still bested these potential numbers.
The question at the back of everyone's head is: Did Chuck Fletcher get taken, ala Cam Barker, or is this just a bump in the road?
Quality of Linemates
Now, I don't have the fancy stats to fall back on here, but Setoguchi, until last night, was skating along side the best the Wild have to offer. Starting the season with Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley, the expectations could not have been set any higher. When the scoring didn't happen, Mike Yeo switched things up and put Setoguchi with Matt Cullen and an every changing cast of characters on the opposite wing.
That ever changing wing at one point was Pierre-Marc Bouchard, at another Guillaume Latendresse, at other times, Cal Clutterbuck. None of these players is a slouch when it comes to the offensive game. None of the players Setoguchi has lined up with have been poor offensive players.
Well, of course, until last night.
Reports out of practice today say he is back with Koivu and Heatley tomorrow night.
The quality of his linemates is not the issue. Moving on.
Shooting the Puck
When Setoguchi was introduced to the media, he joked that he doesn't pass the puck, he just shoots it. Fans were ecstatic. Fifty three games later, and Setoguchi ranks fifth on the team with 99 SOG. Dany Heatley (161), Matt Cullen (119), Kyle Brodziak (115), and Cal Clutterbuck (111) are all ahead of Setoguchi. Mikko Koivu is just five shots behind, and Nick Johnson just seven.
Not exactly what was expected. Not exactly up to par with past seasons. Even missing ten games last year, he put up 199 SOG. The only way he makes that this year is if he puts up an average of 3 1/2 shots a game for the rest of the year. Right now, his average 2.4 in the games he has played in. An extra shot on goal per game shouldn't be overly difficult to achieve, but to this point, he has just 10 games with more than 3 SOG.
Is the lack of shooting the problem? Certainly is a part of it.
The expectations of Setoguchi are high. A fan favorite, the top defenseman on the team was traded for him, a pick, and a prospect. Until that pick and prospect come to the NHL, fans only see Setoguchi. The pressure is on him, fair or not. It would be rather difficult to convince anyone that those expectations were overly unfair, though. Fans expected him to shoot the puck. He isn't doing that. Expectations blown.
What were the expectations from Chuck Fletcher? They weren't spelled out in specifics, but you have to bet ten goals, eight assists, and a team worst -12 weren't on his wish list.
Does Devin Setoguchi have an attitude issue? Every time he speaks to the media, he seems to be a professional. He is funny, gives good quotes, and says the right things. He does all of the off-ice, away from the game things that make an NHL player a good person. All of the photo-op things that a pro athlete does to make a difference in their community have been done.
Now, as brought up in the comment section here at HW several times, he did tweet a picture of his car while his team was getting beat down in Calgary. He did reportedly go out drinking with his buddies from the Sharks and miss a team function.
Is two incidents, both minor in the grand scheme of things, enough to label a player with attitude issues? For some, yes. For me, not yet. Yet being the operative word. The fans have begun to turn on him, something outside his, or the media's control. One thing is certain... an uptick in scoring would make all that go away.
This is the overriding question with everything regarding the Wild. What now? It applies to every position, every player, every member of the administration. If you aren't asking that question, you aren't paying much attention.
With Setoguchi, the question is rather important. Is he available to trade? Will time on the third line send him a message? Is there a forward pairing that jump starts his offense?
Depending on your outlook of the season will color how you respond to how the team should handle Devin Setoguchi. If you feel it is a lost season, and he cannot turn his game around, you will feel the desire to trade him. If you are a masochist, you will feel the desire to drop him to the fourth line and let him toil away the season in obscurity.
The most likely scenario is that Setoguchi returns to the second line, is not traded, and returns next season for a another chance to prove himself. With the level of talent he has, that is the best plan for the Wild. Save for a deal that brings in another player that can score, Setoguchi isn't likely to go anywhere.
The expectations were high, and they weren't even close to met. An off season, or an indication of things to come? The only thing that will let us know that is time. Slow, painful, creeping time.
What say you, Wilderness?